This is turning out to be an important year for the Hellenic Centre in London, starting with its Academy of Athens award for its contribution to raising awareness about Greek culture in the United Kingdom. Otherwise a year of financial woes — for Greece as well as Britain — 2010 proved an unexpectedly good year for the Hellenic Centre, which over its 17 years of operation has grown into one of the most active propagators of Hellenism outside of Greece. And this is done without the support of Greek taxpayers.
But the Greeks and Cypriots of London who form the core of the Hellenic Centre (founded in 1994) have a different mentality to their brethren in Greece who believe that nothing can run without the help of state funding.
The only assistance the Centre has received from the Greek state is a staff of one or two Greek language teachers a year from 2003 to 2011 (a practice that has been suspended due to spending cuts) and a grant of 7,000 pounds for the its library. In contrast to Greece, Cyprus has provided steady financial support to the Hellenic Centre throughout its history.
Nevertheless, the institution has not only survived, but has come out a winner as well by maximizing its star asset: a lofty Edwardian mansion in the heart of London?s West End, on Paddington Street, which lies just a few minutes? walk from the upmarket Marylebone High Street. The Centre has managed to secure steady revenues by renting out its main ceremonies hall to businesses and other independent bodies when it is not using the venue itself. Stamos Fafalios, chairman of the Hellenic Centre?s executive board, credits this success to the management skills of the current director, Agatha Kalispera.
Among the most successful programs organized by the Hellenic Centre are its modern Greek classes and evenings with live rebetiko music, which are especially popular with the institution?s British friends.
Coming up on the Centre?s agenda are an Easter celebration on Tuesday, May 3, at 7 p.m., and a lecture on May 11 titled ?The Rise and Fall of Royal Alexandria from Mohamed Ali to Farouk,? by Dr Philip Mansel.
To find out more about the Hellenic Centre and its activities, log on to www.helleniccentre.org.